6:08 PM CST, February 17, 2014
SOCHI, Russia — Drew Doughty took a pass from Jeff Carter and was gone, dashing up the left side to score a spectacular goal that ended a tight, defense-dominated game.
But not for the Kings.
Given the green light by Team Canada Coach Mike Babcock to jump up and join the rush — or sometimes lead it — Doughty has been the sensation of the Sochi Olympic hockey tournament. He scored both goals in Canada's 2-1 overtime victory over Finland on Sunday and has four goals in three games, tops among defensemen.
To put it another way: Doughty has scored more goals than Slovakia (two), Norway (three) and Switzerland (two).
Before the Olympic break he had eight goals, 13th-best among NHL defensemen. His 30 points ranked 20th. Here, he's third among Olympic scorers with five points.
What might Doughty do if Kings Coach Darryl Sutter allowed him to pinch and take chances more often?
"I'd hope he'd do what he's doing here," Carter, a Kings forward, said Monday. "We all know what kind of player he is. He's so skilled offensively that when he gets those opportunities, a lot of time they're going in the net or someone is scoring off one of his rebounds. He definitely creates a lot out there."
Asked if he might try to talk Sutter into giving him more freedom, Doughty responded with a half-snort, half-chuckle.
"It's different. Here you're with so many high-caliber players," he said. "You almost know they're going to make the play for sure, and they're going to see the play. Nothing against anyone in L.A. or anything like that, but it's just a different game.
"It's not that Darryl holds me back in L.A. at all. You see different opportunities here with this team than you do back home."
Most of the 13 Kings and Ducks participating in the Olympic tournament had an impact in the preliminary round. They'll get another chance in qualification playoffs on Tuesday.
Slovenia, led by Kings center Anze Kopitar — who has a goal and two points and said Monday he's better after having stomach flu — will face Austria, with the winner to face No. 1 seed Sweden in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg has one assist for Sweden. No. 5 Russia, with Kings defenseman Slava Voynov as a core player, will face No. 12 Norway with the winner to face Finland in the quarterfinals. Ducks winger Teemu Selanne has a goal and two points for Finland. His Ducks teammate, defenseman Sami Vatanen, shares the team scoring lead with four assists.
Also Tuesday, No. 6 Switzerland will face No. 11 Latvia, with the winner to play No. 3 Canada. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller was perfect in two starts for the Swiss, a pair of 1-0 wins. Canada also has been boosted by Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf (one goal, three points) and Corey Perry (one assist). In the other qualification playoff, No. 7 Czech Republic will face No. 8 Slovakia for a quarterfinal berth against the second-seeded U.S. on Wednesday at Shayba Arena.
Kings and U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick was stellar in two starts, compiling a 1.44 goals-against average and .944 save percentage (compared with 2.18 and .911 with the Kings). Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler scored a goal and is +4 defensively. Even Dustin Brown, deep in an epic scoring slump, has a goal and two points — double the number of road points he has recorded for the Kings.
Sutter said via email that he watched most U.S and Canada games and saw Kopitar and Voynov twice. "Guys look sharp. Drew playing focused and energized," Sutter said, adding that Doughty had sustained a high level of play.
"Carter showing a lot of speed and puck possession. Jonathan is sharp and playing good control game. Hope Kopi is feeling better for Austria game. Would love to see them win another game."
Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said he's not surprised at Doughty's success here.
"Many of the defensemen that garner all the headlines are a product of points focus," he said via email. "What makes Drew special is not his highlights but his subtleties that are on display every shift. True artistry is most often mastering complexity yet making it appear simple."
Playing for the low-scoring Kings prepared Doughty and Carter well for this. "I guess we're used to playing a tight game," Doughty said. "We're used to giving up not many shots and not used to giving up many goals. But at the same time we're not used to scoring many goals."
Except when Doughty scores them. Kings fans should consider this a good omen: after blossoming at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and winning a gold medal, Doughty went on to become a Norris trophy finalist.
"Two weeks from now I won't be liking him because he'll be playing on the Kings," said his defense partner, Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks. "Right now I'm happy he's scoring four goals. He's been great for us."
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